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Relationships of STL Newspapers/Radio Stations

Newspapers and radio stations are usually portrayed as competitors for news stories and advertising dollars. But in St. Louis, as in many other cities, newspapers scrambled to be associated with stations, even taking ownership positions. Some were more successful than others.

(There is even a name given to the skirmish that escalated between the news providers: The Press-Radio War. It lasted from 1924 - 1939 and involved a series of efforts by print media to force radio stations to stop broadcasting news. At one point, the papers had radio reporters banned from Congressional press galleries.)

The most prominent newspaper/radio relationship was the Post-Dispatch ownership of KSD, which lasted from 1922 to 1978. The St. Louis Star jumped on the bandwagon with WEB in 1925, buying stock in the station, changing the call letters to WIL and moving the studios to the Star Building at 12th and Olive. No documentation has been found detailing the removal of the Star as an owner of WIL, but in the mid-1930s, the paper began application for ownership of another station, KXOK, which went on the air in 1938. The paper, by this time known as the Star-Times, built the station’s studios in its new building at what is now Tucker and Convention Plaza.

Through all of this, the city’s third major newspaper was left out of the radio ownership circle. The Globe-Democrat finally entered the fray December 19 of 1948 when it signed on with KWGD-FM. A brand new building was constructed at 12th and Cole with enough space for a radio station and, some said, a television station. The enterprise was short-lived. KWGD-FM went dark April 4, 1949, a victim of the very small audience listening to FM radio in those days. The paper responded quickly by purchasing minority stock interest in an existing radio station, KWK, owned by Thomas Patrick, Inc.

The agreement appears to be beneficial to both parties. The Globe was hooked up with a viable radio station and KWK got a facility big enough to house its proposed television station. Robert Convey’s station had been headquartered at the Chase Hotel from 1927-1949. The last program from that facility was broadcast May 8 of 1949. Quoting a newspaper account: “Then a staff of 75 will move in time for Ed Wilson, disc jockey, to greet the dawn from the new location, to be followed later in the day by such KWK favorites as Gil Newsome’s ‘Bandstand Review’ and Tom Dailey’s ‘Recall It and Win.’”

“From 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. tomorrow there will be a special program to mark the occasion, including a description for KWK listeners of the new quarters, which Robert T. Convey, president of KWK, has called ‘one of the finest radio stations in the United States.’” The new facility was called the Globe-Democrat Tower Building in all stories in the paper.

The Globe wasted little time in burying its old FM operation. Publisher E. Lansing Ray announced that the 98.1 megacycle frequency allocation had been returned to the Federal Communications Commission. It was expected that KWK would apply for the frequency later.

The announcement of the Globe-Democrat’s purchase of a minority position was greeted with surprise by the Washington commission. F.C.C. officials said they had received no notification of the paper’s purchase of stock in the Convey company, and such notification was required within 30 days of the transaction. All 29 employees of KWGD-FM had been fired and given two-weeks’ severance pay.

Finally, the newspaper could be on the radio ownership bandwagon riding in the same seat as its St. Louis competitors. It was no longer relegated to a second class radio operation hampered by an FM frequency few listeners could receive or were interested in receiving.

Within two months, the paper and its station planned a pair of parties. The first, an invitation-only affair, was for 1,300 ad executives and public officials, who were given private tours of the station. The second, two weeks later, was an open house for the public. Anyone wishing to take part in one of the three daily public tours was required to send in requests, along with self-addressed stamped return envelopes.

(Reprinted with permission of the St. Louis Journalism Review. Originally published 6/00)